My baby boy used to grab my hand and hold it all the time. Whenever we’d go to the grocery store, out to run errands, or to a restaurant for dinner, he would take my hand and walk with me from the car to our final destination. He doesn’t do that anymore. He doesn’t hold my hand.

My youngest son is twelve-years-old and in the sixth grade. Up until last year, there was still hand holding. Middle school has brought out the “Big Boy” in my son, and holding hands with his mother is now forbidden and, from what I’ve noticed, pretty much appalling.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve exited my vehicle and walked beside my son, slowly moving my hand toward his and grabbing, only to have him briefly touch me, then drop my hand like it was a hot piece of coal I’d just removed from a burning fire. I’ve tried reaching from behind, doing it quickly, or trying very quietly and carefully, hoping he won’t notice that I’m touching his hand, only to be denied each and every time.

I still say, “Watch for cars!”, when we walk through a parking lot, as my tween rolls his eyes, says, “I know, Mom,” and runs ahead of me. He no longer picks out toys when we go to Target. He wants hair gel and “man spray” (that’s what he calls cologne), and he picks out baseball caps that have a straight bill, instead of the curved-billed hats he used to wear when he was a little boy. He doesn’t want crayons or boxes of colorful markers, he wants mechanical pencils and black notebooks with no designs on the front, and absolutely no pictures of celebrities or boy band members are allowed.

He wants to play with knives in the woods, buy airsoft guns, and ride his mountain bike on steep, dangerous paths that (I’m quite certain), are laden with sharp branches just ready to pierce through his eyeballs the minute he falls. He wants to build “hide-outs” in the backyard and sleep in a tent all by himself.

Instead of “Family Movie Night” on Friday nights, when we all used to sit around the television, eat popcorn and watch animated films, my son now wants as many friends as he can to come over to do obstacle courses in our backyard, ride their bikes to the park, play tag in the dark, eat chips and pizza, and stay up all hours of the night laughing and filming videos on their iPhones. And, of course, none of these activities include a crazy, overbearing mom who still thinks it’s okay to hug and kiss her son in front of his friends.

My son is still sweet. He’s still a nice boy. He says “Please and Thank you,” whenever I allow him to do all those fun things he likes to do. He’s respectful and kind, but he no longer needs me like he used to when he was younger. His first thought every morning is no longer, “Where’s my mommy?”, now it is “Where are the Lucky Charms?”

He gets himself up every morning for school using his own alarm clock. He does his own hair. He picks out his own clothes. He makes his own breakfast. He gathers up his homework and he packs his own backpack. I’m pretty sure that if he could drive himself to school, he would.

I know all his actions of independence are good. I know that I am raising a boy who will be able to care for himself later in life, and that maybe, because he’s becoming more self-sufficient, he won’t have a horribly rough transition into high school or a terrible time when he goes off to college. I understand that this is what I have always wanted- this is how I’ve tried to raise both my boys. I want them to grow and be able to take care of themselves. I should be happy my oldest son is now doing his own laundry and never needs to be reminded to get his extra clothes for his gym class ready every Monday morning.

All these things my boys can do for themselves should make me rejoice. I should be proud we’ve raised them well and that they are growing up to be grounded, smart, healthy, and independent young men.

So what’s wrong with me?

Sometimes I just want to make my boys breakfast in the morning and sit and watch them eat like I did when they were babies. Sometimes I want to do their laundry for them and fold it “just right.” Sometimes I even want to let them skip school for a day so they can stay home with me and we can “snuggle.” And sometimes, I want to hold their hands. Sometimes I need to hold their hands.

I miss that smell they had when they were babies, when they’d just get out of a warm bath. I miss their chubby cheeks and how they would mispronounce certain words. I miss my little one waking me up way too early on Saturday mornings, and sitting with him in our big, overstuffed chair, watching cartoons and snuggling up under a blanket. I miss slobbery kisses and messy hair. I miss gummy smiles and drool.

But I look at my big, strong, handsome boys now, and I’m so very proud. I am enjoying getting to know these new little “men” who are living in my house and who now make some of their own decisions, as I sit by quietly and sometimes have to watch them fail, rather than saving them from themselves. I love that my oldest son comes to get me right before he goes to bed at night as asks me if we can “talk.” I love that my youngest son still asks me to scratch his back when I tuck him in at night, and asks my husband and me to make him pancakes on Sunday mornings.

I know I’ve done my job. I know, despite my many mistakes, I am raising good boys. I understand that I need to let them try new things, challenge themselves, make mistakes, and learn to handle the curveballs that life throws their way on their own. But still, in those rare moments that we have some time alone, I will still try to take my son’s hand in mine and hold on for just a little bit longer.

Photo credit: Mad Cow NL via / CC BY-NC

Tammi Landry-Gilder

Tammi is an author, wife, mother and blogger who lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with her husband, two sons, three dogs, and too many fish in a tank to count.